Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, unveiled "NEWOil" during Committee of Supply debate on Mar. 4, 2020.
In her speech, Khor said that not all plastic waste is suitable for mechanical recycling, for example, contaminated plastic bags.
To address this issue, the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) are looking into recycling contaminated plastic bags and single-use plastics into synthetic fuel coined as the 'NEWOil'.
NEWOil could address issues around single-use plastics and alternative energy
MEWR and NEA are working with industry partners to look into chemical recycling solutions to convert plastics that are not suitable for mechanical recycling, such as dirty single-use plastics, into higher-value products, such as pyrolysis oil.
In the future, pyrolysis oil could be used as a potential feedstock for Singapore’s petrochemical sector.
In the process, plastics that might not be suitable for conventional recycling can be broken down into small pieces mechanically before being heated into a plastic liquid.
After being heated, the melted plastic is then transferred to a reactor, where the plastic liquid is heated at temperatures of 450 to 650°C in the absence of oxygen, which results in gases.
These gases then condensed to become wax or oils.
Here's an example of how plastics can be transformed into oil:
Government is looking to set up a pilot plant for 'NEWOil' in S'pore
MEWR is working with Economic Development Board to set up a pilot plant for pyrolysis oil in the next few years, with the help of industry partners.
If successful, Khor mentioned that Singapore can be more resource resilient, like NEWater and NEWSand, and be one step closer to a Zero Waste nation and a Low-Carbon economy.
By investing in novel recycling technologies, MEWR hopes that it can help create more jobs for Singaporeans in the future.
MEWR mentioned that it could create jobs for those in the fields of process, mechanical and chemical engineering.
Converting plastic to oil is energy-intensive & not cheap
According to the Southeast Asia Globe, the high temperatures required for the conversion of plastic to oil is highly-energy intensive.
In addition, the cost of pyrolysis oil made from plastic waste is still higher than conventional crude oil.
Another issue with turning plastic waste into energy is that we might ignore a bigger problem: over-production and mindless consumption of plastic.
Top photos by Brian Yurasits/Unsplash and Plastic Energy/Twitter